For Venuste Kubwimana, a passion for contributing to his community was sparked during the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Although Venuste, his mother and siblings survived the brutal months of mass murder, they suffered financially. In the following years, finding work and supporting his family was difficult, but Venuste became focused on one goal: helping people avoid similar hardships.
Having started to work at age 14, Venuste completed his civil engineering studies and quickly built a stable financial foundation for himself. He soon volunteered for a non-profit organization with other young people in his field. Along with his friend Bonny, Venuste was ready to take the leap into starting his own non-profit. In 2009, he and Bonny founded International Transformation Foundation (ITF), which officially became a registered non-profit in 2010.
“We wanted to set up an organization that would be led by youth and that would contribute to communities,” says Venuste, 31.
With the motto “Discover, believe, become,” the Nairobi-based organization currently runs many different projects, from setting up public water stations in Kenya to offering free computer training programs to youth groups, among several other noteworthy campaigns.
One of ITF’s pivotal projects is called “Joining the Pipe.” This initiative strives to work with rural area schools to develop a pipe that joins tap stations on school properties, allowing children to have access to clean water as well as have the opportunity to bring clean water home for them and their families. The first kiosk opened in November 2013; now, ITF has set up kiosks in Nairobi, Bungoma and Siaya.
This project is one that is close to Venuste’s heart, as it traces back to his own childhood.
“Growing up in East Africa, we didn’t have running water at home,” Venuste says. “We would have to walk 5 km in the morning just to get water.”
As a way to support education for youth in the community, ITF also hosts conferences with companies and universities for young people. These conferences discuss ways in which large businesses and post-secondary institutions can help promote youth employment. From job shadowing with company partners to creating best practices of developing a work environment for youth, ITF helps to bridge the gap between corporations, universities and youth in order to propel students towards their full potential.
With 7 people currently on the team, ITF continues to forge ahead with even more progressive initiatives. Some of the organization’s most recent accomplishments include ITF’s first water station in Rwanda as well as Venuste representing ITF at the 2016 Global Citizens Youth Advocates Symposium, where he participated in a symposium with 10 other youth activists.
Contributing their time as well as their money, ITF members range in age from 17 to 30 years old, helping the organization reach its goals of being 100% sustainable. Although ITF’s projections aimed to have the organization be sustainable by 2017, Venuste said they’re currently around 65% and hope to be closer to 80% by next year.
“Something that makes me happy today is how young people have come out to support our idea. That’s something amazing,” Venuste says. “Can you imagine someone working for free just with the passion of making someone else’s life better?”